(480) 899-52402470 West Ray Road Suite 1, Chandler, AZ 85224

Daniel G. Kline DDS - Chandler Dentist

(480) 899-5240

2470 West Ray Road Suite 1, Chandler, AZ 85224

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Hair Growing in the Mouth?

Posted by Editor in , , on December 2, 2017

It might sound like something out of a sci-fi book, but tongues can technically grow hair. It’s usually black, and the medical term is lingua villosa nigra. Fortunately, it’s benign and very self-limiting. Exactly how many people will experience this in their lifetime? According to a report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, it’s anywhere from 0.15 – 11 percent of the population. Nobody’s quite certain why this occurs, but it has been linked to other risk factors. The good news? It’s usually resolved very quickly. In fact, many people who’ve had it probably don’t even know it! Oftentimes, the hair is in very small patches and you might only notice if you’re examining your tongue.

It starts with a strange looking brown, yellow or black coating on the top of the tongue. Sometimes that’s as far as it goes. The sides and tip of the tongue look normal. Some people report a coppery taste in the mouth or bad breath. Others have said they had a heightened gag reflex during an outbreak.

This might all sound very odd, but the “hair” some people report is actually an optical illusion. There are miniature projections on the papillae and tongue that elongate and don’t shed at the normal rate. Bacteria and yeast gather, while debris adds to the curious color. The Mayo Clinic reports that smoking or other types of tobacco use can make it look worse. Some medications (anything with bismuth), poor dental hygiene, breathing through the mouth, menthol, with hazel, and peroxide in mouth washes can also exacerbate the look of “hairy tongue.”

The longer a person drinks coffee and/or uses tobacco, the more likely they are to experience “hairy tongue”—and the more severe it will look.

Many times, simply increasing oral hygiene will correct hairy tongue in a few days. However, if you notice it, it’s natural to want to see your dentist right away! He might recommend rinsing with five parts water/one part hydrogen peroxide for a few days. Stopping smoking and coffee until the situation clears is also recommended.

In severe cases, your dentist might prescribe an antifungal treatment, prescription mouthwash or retinoids. In very extreme cases, laser treatment to remove part of the papillae might be required. Your best bet is to avoid hairy tongue with healthy practices, good oral hygiene, and stopping any bad habits that might attract it.